A very fine line

There can be a very fine line between free speech and hate speech but there are times when it can be difficult for the audience to determine whether the speaker crosses that line. In some cases, the listener’s perception is shaped by their personal views on the topic being discussed.

Last week a woman named Megan Murphy spoke at a public library in Toronto, and then later in the week, spoke at a venue in Vancouver. Both events were met with protests by the LGBT community regarding the content of her speeches. From what I could find on the website for her magazine, it appears she is very anti-trans, if not anti-LGBT in general.

Full disclosure here: I’m a transwoman. According to Ms Murphy, I am therefore not a woman by any definition. From articles I’ve read, she persists upon misgendering transmen and transwomen. But what really upsets me about her attitudes and pronouncements is that she has stated that when Ottawa passed Bill C-16, which, in essence, made trans people equal, in all ways, to the rest of the population, it diluted the rights of ciswomen. I could find nothing on her site to support her claim.

I spoke with two women on this issue. One said that I now had the same rights as she, and it in no way weakened her legal protections. The other said the following: Giving trans women, or trans people in general, doesn’t take away my rights; in fact, it does the opposite, because by pushing for the rights of another group of people, I am pushing for the rights of ALL people.

There you have the views of two women, one an artist and one a chef. That I now enjoy the same legal protections – and by extension, the same responsibilities – as do they, makes no difference to their lives.

Members of the transgender community already face discrimination on a frequent, if not daily, basis. There is enough violence directed toward the LGBT community and we don’t need people like Megan Murphy stirring up more animosity toward us, which her views have the potential to incite.

I have always been a proponent of free speech. It is because of that right I’m able to write some of the things I do in these blogs. At the same time, I am aware that using that right can be a balancing act because, as I wrote above, the perception of the reader can determine whether or not my words are hateful, or just mean-spirited. In my opinion, if Ms Murphy wasn’t guilty of hate speech in her presentations in Toronto and Vancouver, she was certainly skating very, very close to that fine line between free speech and hate speech and needs to be taken to task for her words and actions.

Cat.

Whatever strikes my fancy

I’m a writer and photographer. I’m working on my autobiography. Funny thing, but if people learn this they will often ask “is it finished yet?” Umm, unless you’re using a spirit board to ask that, the answer is obviously “No”. I’ve stopped it at the point I received my new birth certificate with new name and gender, but I’m still here so it could continue.

I write speculative fiction, also called science fiction and mystery and these pieces usually start with asking myself “what if …?”, then answering that question. That “what if …” could be on any topic – as the title indicates “whatever strikes my fancy”. I’ve destroyed cities and other planets (usually with classical music playing in the background as I write) and in the late nineties I chronicled a war that destroyed this planet. What prompted that was the debate over whether the 21st century would start January 1, 2000 or 2001. I think the answer depends if you ask an historian or a mathematician.

With my blogs, again I write about any topic that strikes my fancy or irritates me. I enjoy writing about various online scams as warnings to my readers. For the most part I stay away from American politics. I’m not American so unless what’s-his-name in the White House had done or said something exceedingly stupid, I ignore it. Having said that, living in Canada and being reasonably intelligent, I am aware that events in the U S may and can have a tremendous effect on us as well, so I do pay attention to American politics. I have however taken Canadian federal politicians to task on many occasions over their pronouncements or actions. And with the current regime in Queen’s Park, I can see that Ontario Premier Doug Ford will become a frequent target.

I prefer to write and edit in longhand, then once I’m satisfied I transcribe to the computer. By doing so, if inspiration strikes while I’m out I can capture the thought at the moment as I usually carry paper and pen.

I use this same approach with my photography. If something catches my eye, I’ll take a photo. A flower, a sign, interesting architecture, a scenic vista or sometihng whimsical such as this shot below taken outside a local shop on my phone, it doesn’t matter. There are occasion , such as grocery shopping, when carrying a camera is too awkward, by my phone has an excellent camera.

I use digital cameras (Canon ever since my first film SLR in the seventies) and have what I consider to be good software – Corel Paintshop Pro for processing. I can usually find something in the raw image to turn into a photo. And of course, by using digital cameras and processing, “undo” and “delete” have become my best friends.

I’ve had various people who like my work suggest to me I should give courses in both writing and photography. Such course would be very short indeed for here’s what I’d say:

Writing: write about what interests you. If that requires research, great – you’ll learn something new. If writing fiction or topical blogs, write the way you speak. If people who know you read it, they’ll hear your voice speaking the words and for others, it will sound more natural. Don’t use what I call “ten dollar words” in an attempt to sound more intelligent. If you don’t normally use them in everyday vocabulary, you’ll probably use them incorrectly.

Photography: if it catches your eye, snap it and sort it out later. Remember, “delete” can be a powerful tool.

There’s the essence of any courses I’d give.

Now, go create something and remember to hug an artist, no matter what their field of endeavour, for we need love too. And to my Canadian followers and visitors, have a safe and happy Canada Day weekend.

Cat.

Echoes from the past

I just watched a documentary on PBS called “The Lavender Scare” which began during the Eisenhower era. Much like the House Un-American Committee led by Joseph McCarthy, which rooted out Communists in government (the “Red Scare”), this group was devoted to uncovering homosexuals in government positions. Thousands lost their jobs over perceived “deviant” (their word) behaviour. It wasn’t until 1995 that President Clinton signed an order banning the practice.

Based on current events I see echoes of this, beginning with the banning of trans people from the military. I don’t think it will end there, at lease not with the current administration. This is a pessimistic view I know, but has been shown in the past couple of years, there doesn’t appear to be any depth to which they will not sink.

While not on a governmental level, such discrimination does occur in Canada. In the sixties and seventies, I worked with two people at different times who were fired for being gay. In the late ‘90s, I lost a job for being trans. I wasn’t fired outright, the company just made it impossible for me to do the job. At the time, I worked in a position that required a government licence. After I came out to my employer, when the licence was due to be renewed, they declined to give me a new application and when I insisted, they did, but then refused to submit it to the appropriate government body. The Human Rights Tribunal had fun with that one.

So even though the “Lavender Scare” is officially over, it continues in a lighter shade.

Cat.

How can you not know this?

Yesterday I took part in a study at a Toronto hospital. Part of the intake procedure involved completing a questionnaire for the Ministry of Health.

There were eight questions in total, most of the multiple choice variety. For all questions one choice of answer was “prefer not to answer” and one was “do not know”. What incenses me with this answer relates to the nature of the questions. First question asks what language would you feel most comfortable using when speaking with a health-care provider. There were 34 choices ranging from Amharic to Vietnamese, plus “won’t answer” and “don’t know”. How the hell can you not know what language you are comfortable speaking?

Next: Were you born in Canada? “Yes”, “No”, “won’t answer” and “don’t know”. I have a problem with that as well. How can you not know where you were born – not the city necessarily, but what country are you from??

There were two questions dealing with income – how much do you earn in a year? with six income brackets to choose from along with “won’t answer” and “don’t know”. The second question was the number of people supported by that annual income. For this one, you had to fill in a number, not answer or say you don’t know. You don’t know how many people your money supports? C’mon now. At a minimum, the numerical answer is one – yourself.

There were also two questions dealing with gender identity and sexual preferences. Okay, I’ll give you these two. Depending upon the age of the respondent, they may not honestly know what gender they believe themselves to be. It may not be the one assigned at birth. As for sexual preference, same thing applies. The respondent may be uncertain.

The other six questions though, deal with concrete facts – the language you speak and where you were born for example, so how on earth can you answer those six with “do not know”?

Am I the only one who finds the choice of “do not know” frustrating when offered as an alternative answer to a question asking for definite facts? And no, “I don’t know” is not an acceptable answer.

Cat.

You need to worry about this

In late November 2018, I was asked by my doctor if I could be available for media interviews in late January. St Michael’s Hospital in Toronto had conducted a study of 120 trans people and found that, on average, trans people were 60% less likely to get screened for any form of cancer. The interviews with CTV network and Canadian Press were held this past Monday, January 21 and were related to the release of this study. The study itself was released on Wednesday January 23.

in my remarks, I stated that in my view, there were two main reasons for such a low screening rate. The first of these is a lack of training on the part of the medical profession. As I’m sure my trans readers are aware, many doctors and nurses have little or no training in trans health issues. Here in Ontario it is possible to change the gender marker on identification documents without having had any surgery. So, given that documents show one gender, and the appearance of the patient matches that identifier, the caregiver may not consider screening for certain types of cancer. For instance, if faced with what the documentation and appearance indicates “male”, the caregiver may not know the person in front of them was born female and consider screening for cervical cancer.

Again, if a transwoman is present, the idea of screening for prostrate cancer may not be considered.

The second problem lies within the trans population itself. I know that we are under pressure, often self-imposed, to blend in, or “pass” as our correct gender. The one place that can be a detriment is in our health care. First, let me state I’m fortunate in that my caregiver at St Mike’s is well-versed in trans medicine. Others may not have that luxury. If, as happens, you changed doctors after you transitioned, unless you’ve had a full physical exam with this new doctor, they may not be aware you were not born as you now present. And they won’t know this unless you tell them. I know that advice is probably not want you want to hear, but we’re talking about something that may save your life so maybe – just this once – you could break down that barrier you’ve erected between now and the past.

This is something you really do need to worry about.

Cat.

I’ve had trouble in the past posting links on WordPress, so if you want the links to both the televised interview and the print interview, just ask and I’ll provide them in a response to a comment.

C.

Don’t call me that

I did not set out intending to become a spokeswoman for anything or anyone. But over the past couple of months I’ve been involved in two separate events in which I’ve been called an advocate.

In both cases, my doctor asked me to take part in these events, and I agreed, so I knew what was coming. The first of these was a “health equity boot camp” put on by St Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. My doctor thought I’d be perfect for this one since I am both a senior and trans. As usual at these things, everyone wears a name tag. Mine also contained the notation “patient advocate”. The second, again through St Mike’s, was a study on cancer detection in trans people. I met with them and was once again identified as an advocate.

Here’s the thing: I don’t consider myself an advocate of any kind. In each case I made it clear at the outset that I spoke only for myself and did not represent any group or organisation. I’m in my mid-seventies, trans as I said above, and have strong opinions which I don’t mind sharing, usually in my blogs. But how can one person speaking strictly from a personal perspective be considered an advocate?

Here’s the definition of “advocate” from the Oxford University Press dictionary: advocate >noun 1 a person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy. 2 a person who pleads a case on someone else’s behalf. 3 Scottish term for barrister. Obviously that third definition is not me. As for the other two, I suppose if you squint really, really hard, you could fit my participation in those two events into one or both of those definitions. Even if you could, you’d have a hard time convincing me.

I’m reasonably intelligent and keep up with events in general and especially those that affect the trans community for they could, and often do, affect me. But the only policy I support or recommend is one that will make my life easier (I know, that sounds selfish of me.). Did I plead on behalf of someone else? Not intentionally, but if something I said in either of these events can benefit someone else, great.

Perhaps I’m being wilfully blind, but I fail to see how speaking up for myself can be considered being an advocate. Yes, my doctor recommended me for these two events because, to use her words, I hold strong opinions and I’m well-spoken. And yes, my best friend tells me I’m an advocate because I’m not afraid to speak out and she wishes I’d do it more often.

If my actions make me an advocate, well that’s your opinion.   But please, please, don’t call me that. I’ll probably laugh at you.

Enjoy your day and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.

America, where have you gone?

I am really worried about the future of the United States of America. Let me explain my concerns. Since the spring of 2017, America appears to be on a downward spiral.

Thanks to the rhetoric of the apprentice president, the country seems to be more divided than at any other time in recent history. Emboldened by the vile words that emanated from the election campaign, and the apparent tacit approval of the Oval Office, the white supremacists and other nationalistic groups have attacked, verbally and physically, minorities; people of colour and people of other faiths. Has the apprentice done or said anything to alleviate this dissent and social unrest? No. In fact, when referring to the Charlottesville murder, he is quoted as saying there were probably “good people” on both sides. How the hell can someone who deliberately ran their vehicle into a group of peaceful demonstrators, killing one, be called a “good person?” Just about every day, there are reports of some white person calling the police because they see some black person doing something innocent. The comments issuing from the White House and some of the legislation and executive orders are doing nothing to ease the “us against them’ mentality that seems to have taken hold in the so-called “land of the free”. Or does that phrase have an asterisk after it now: *provided you’re a white American citizen?

Immigrants are being targeted. We’ve all seen or heard of the current situation where children of all ages are being separated from their parents if they try to cross the southern border outside a regular border-crossing point.

The economy is another area the apprentice president seems to be intent on destroying. Trade barriers in the form of tariffs while good in theory, don’t work in practice. When a country imposes punitive duties on imports, two things happen. First, imported goods become more expensive. If the goods are materials for the manufacture of products, the costs are passed along to the end user – you. If finished products are imported, the same thing happens – you end up paying more for that product. Why is this? Simple. Because the manufacturer or importer isn’t going to eat those additional costs since it will affect their profits, therefore the consumer pays more. The second thing trade barriers do is cause the countries affected by American import duties to retaliate by imposing their own extra duties on American products. The result? The other country will buy less from American suppliers because of the extra duties; and they’ll find a manufacturer in some other country that can provide goods of a comparable quality at a lower cost. According to a news report I saw tonight on one of the news channels, at the moment, Washington has imposed punitive extra duties on goods from countries, and had those countries impose similar duties on American goods, that account for two-thirds of American foreign trade. I have read in the last couple of days that BMW, which manufactures vehicles in the US, is going to move some production to China to avoid the tariffs the Chinese have imposed on the import of automobiles manufactured in the US. Even if you’re not an economics major, you know what effect those actions are going to have on the economy of the United States? If you said they will cost jobs, you pass the course.

Internationally, in addition to the imposition of trade barriers, the apprentice appears to have made it his personal mission to alienate nations that have long been staunch allies of the US. His habit of meddling or commenting on the internal affairs of other nations have done much to ensure that other countries don’t like America much right now. Just today, at the NATO meeting in Brussels, he tore a strip of Germany for their reliance on natural gas from Russia, going so far as to call Germany “a slave of Russia”. I’m certain that Angela Merkel loved hearing that from someone many in her country consider a buffoon. In the meantime, while driving allies away, he is making efforts to become friends with Vladimir Putin, the leader of a country long considered America’s sworn enemy.

The military is another area that seems to have attracted the attention of “the powers? that be”. Having failed to have any and all transgender members discharged, they have turned their attention to immigrants serving in the armed forces. Some are being discharged, often with no reason given, or a vague “national security” reason, with no specifics provided. Such action can only serve to weaken morale in the armed forces. Having worked for a company that at one time, was reducing staff, I know that such actions lead to a general feeling of “am I going to be here next week? Or am I the next on the chopping block?”

A country divided internally by strife; with a struggling economy and a weakened and demoralized military is a prime target for some power with a hatred of the US to consider an attack of some type. This may not be an actual physical occupation, it could take the form of an economic takeover of the United States instead. No fuss, no muss and the objective is still achieved.

I seriously hope I’m wrong, but from what I’ve seen, this appears to be very possible.

Cat.